REEFS and rock structures around the Solitary Islands are proving important breeding grounds for black cod, the threatened relative of the Queensland groper.

The cod have been the focus of new scientific research stretching from the marine park off Coffs Harbour to Fish Rock.

Listed as a vulnerable species, the cod have been found in abundance in the local area.

Marine Park researcher Hamish Malcolm said the species is showing signs of recovery after a noticeable decline led fishermen to call for its protection in 1983.

He said although numbers overall were low, 75 black cod were recorded at 20 sites.

“The slow growth-rate of this fish, combined with its slow-moving, curious and territorial behaviour made it particularly vulnerable to over-fishing,” Mr Malcolm said.

“Black cod may occupy a particular cave or rocky overhang for many years.”

The researchers measured individual fish between 41.5cm and 134.4cm using underwater stereo video.

The study, funded by the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, is assessing fish stocks between Tweeds Heads and South West Rocks.

Important habitats have been identified at North and South Solitary Islands, North West Rock and Pimpernel Rock.

Black cod change sex from female to male at about one metre.

About 25 per cent of the fish measured in this study were believed to have been male.

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